Olivia is a sophomore at Boston University studying Environmental Analysis and Policy. She is originally from Seattle, Washington, where she enjoyed hiking, skiing, and swimming in local lakes and rivers. At Boston University, Olivia is involved in the Environmental Student Organization, which works to make Boston University more sustainable. She also writes for the Emerald Review, which promotes current news in environmental science and policies. Olivia also worked for a summer as a Sustainability Ambassador for her university, where she educated incoming students about Boston University’s efforts to be more sustainable. Olivia hopes to pursue a career where she can impact environmental policy. By working with Our Climate, Olivia hopes to build the foundational skills to influence environmental policy and be a role model for other aspiring policy influencers.
I imagined it would be like something out of a news report, with shouts and chants and distorted faces. I expected anger. Rage, even. More of a riot.
Instead, I extended my paint-covered hands to a smiling six grader as she collected her brush and newly painted sign reading, “‘If you were doing your job I’d be in school’ - Greta Thunberg.” I laid it down to dry next to those of her classmates-- images of trees, animals, the earth, flames and smoke, and potent words: “My future matters” and “We only have one earth.” Words like these mix anger with a richer pallet, a feeling of community, of excitement, of people banded together. These kids were proud to be here, and make their voices heard.
As a college sophomore looking ahead at a lifetime of navigating global crisis, climate change so often inspires fear, despair and anger in me. But the young people that filled Government Center in Boston where we stood, and who filled hundreds of squares, avenues, and plazas places across the world, were fueled by something more renewable--hope.
It’s an emotion I struggle to hold on to, that I needed, that we young people especially need. Sitting in class learning, even learning about climate change, is hollow when the people with power outside our classrooms aren’t fighting for our future. And yet, at an age where I was painting pictures of fairies and Barbies, kids around me were already engaging in the political process, aided by their teachers and their peers. Young people helped those even younger make big posters and cardboard signs. Strangers shared paint, posters and stickers. Two gray-haired women complimented my own sign and asked to take a picture of it. I saw a parent holding a sign that said “I’m with the kids,” following as their young child led the way through throngs of people. There was a true atmosphere of intergenerational camaraderie, compassion, and understanding.
My own experience, even while growing up in a progressive area like Seattle, was quite different. Adults refuse to talk about climate change over dinner because “it’s too depressing.” Or take my dad, who would shrug his shoulders and say, “I’m going to be long gone before any of this catches up with me.”
As sixteen year-old striker Katie Richardson told me while gazing out at the crowd, “It’s really cool how this is a world-wide movement and everyone’s coming together.” The sea of bodies expanding before us--young and old, indigenous and immigrant, white, black and brown, united for the hope of a better future--confirmed what she said.
But hope must not crowd out discernment. While Boston Mayor Marty Walsh thanked the crowd for being present and announced that Boston Public Schools were excusing absences for students who wanted to strike, the subtext was clear: We in Boston and we in the world are doing our job in the climate fight. But we must see our steps so far for what they are, the first baby steps to something much more radical and necessary.
This motivated me to sit down with my legislators and, yes, thank them for what they have done, but more importantly, help them see why it is not enough. Myself and other Our Climate members did just that at a lobby day in Massachusetts on Sept 25th shown in the picture above, sitting down face-to-face with our representatives at the Massachusetts State House, pushing them to make my new home state the leader this nation needs. We advocated for climate policy and explained why these changes are necessary. And how we, who hold the future in our hands, refuse to stand back as victims, refuse to be fueled by anger, but by hope.
We strike to remind ourselves of our power. The strike is not an end, but a beginning. It is good fuel. It starts the momentum that we need to overcome the inertia of past generations’ mistakes and the current administration’s ignorance. It is time for us, the young and empowered, to make these systems--local, federal, and global--change.